Most recent update
The Government has released details of its planning for a no-deal Brexit (known as ‘Operation Yellowhammer’) following a Parliamentary motion requesting the documentation be made public.
The Worse Case Planning Assumptions document considers the various scenarios that could happen if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in order to mitigate these issues.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been working closely with representatives from across the medicines supply chain, including PSNC, for over a year to put robust in plans to ensure the continuity of supply. Contingency arrangements include:
- Improving the readiness of manufacturers and importers for new border arrangements;
- Securing additional roll-on, roll-off freight capacity away from Dover and Folkestone (seen as key pressure points) for medicines to continue to come into the UK from 31st October;
- Building up buffer stocks of prescription-only and pharmacy medicines (by DHSC and industry) in the UK before 31st October;
- Buying extra warehouse space to hold additional stock;
- Booking space on aeroplanes for products that require an immediate shipment due to short shelf-life or specific storage conditions;
- Making changes to regulatory requirements so companies can continue to sell their products in the UK even if we have no deal; and
- Strengthening the processes and resources used to deal with shortages in the event that they do occur despite everyone’s efforts.
Further information is available in a letter to suppliers from DHSC’s Chief Commercial Officer, Steve Oldfield, which was sent on 26th June 2019.
In response to the release of the Yellowhammer Planning Assumptions, DHSC has said:
“We want to reassure the public that we are working closely with partners across the health and care system and industry to take all appropriate steps to prepare for Brexit on 31 October, whatever the circumstances. Our robust plans should help ensure the supply of medicines and medical products remains uninterrupted.”
PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said:
“HM Government had what was in effect a robust dress rehearsal for a no-deal Brexit at the start of this year, and we are confident that they have learned lessons from that experience and are now even better prepared for a possible no-deal Brexit. While nobody can predict what may or may not happen in a no deal Brexit scenario, we are clear that ensuring the supply of medicines to patients, via community pharmacies, must continue to be a focus and we will keep working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ensure that it is.”
16th August 2019: DHSC bolster no-deal planning with express freight service
DHSC announced the creation of an express freight service for medicines as part of contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit. The new freight service will be available to transport medicines and medical products into the UK quickly and is intended to provide an extra level of protection to the medicines supply chain in a no-deal scenario.
2nd August 2019: Government increases funding allocation for no-deal Brexit preparations
HM Government committed funding to help make sure that all industries and businesses are ready if we leave without a deal, with £434 million for the continuity of medicines supply. Whilst PSNC welcomed this announcement, it should be noted that DHSC has been working closely with representatives of medicines manufacturers and pharmacies for almost a year to put robust plans in place for a possible no-deal Brexit.
26th June 2019: Government update letter
This is a letter to suppliers giving an update on ensuring a continued supply of medicines and medical products if the UK leaves the EU with no deal. The letter sets out:
- how the government plans to ensure a continued supply of medicines and medical products; and
- how suppliers of those products can best prepare.
10th April 2019: NHS England issues additional guidance for primary care contractors
NHS England published a letter to support primary care contractors in preparing for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. Written by EU Exit Strategic Commander Professor Keith Willett and Director of Primary Care Commissioning Dr David Geddes, the letter provides advice on medicines supply and who to raise concerns to. It also offers some clarification on the use of Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs).
4th April 2019: Health Secretary provides update
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care wrote to frontline health professionals to provide an update on the Government’s Brexit preparations. Mr Hancock’s letter outlines the most recent information on key healthcare issues relating to the UK’s exit from the EU. It reiterates Government advice stating local stockpiling is unnecessary, confirms the continued recognition of EU professional qualifications in the UK, and highlights the EU Settlement Scheme.
26th March 2019: DHSC communication on EU exit date
Stakeholder communications were issued confirming that the Government has agreed an extension to Article 50. DHSC is continuing work on its no-deal preparations, now planning for the possibility of a no-deal scenario from 12th April 2019.
DHSC told stakeholders: “Please continue the work you are undertaking to prepare your organisation for leaving the EU without a deal and do not wind-down your contingency plans at this stage. You may need to make changes to stop your no deal plans coming into force on 29th March and re-programme preparations to be ready for 12th April.”
25th February 2019: DHSC update on Brexit and the medicine supply chain
The Government issued an update on its contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit via a written statement to Parliament from Minister Stephen Hammond MP. The key message is that the DHSC has been working closely with industry stakeholders to undertake considerable contingency planning for any UK exit from the EU with no ratified deal (a no-deal Brexit). The contingency plans are being made to ensure the continuity of the supply of medicines to patients in the UK.
For more information, see Update on medicines and medical products supply as we exit the EU.
21st December 2018: Operational Readiness Guidance
DHSC has developed new EU Exit Operational Readiness Guidance for providers of NHS services. The guidance, developed with NHS England and NHS Improvement, is part of the Department’s work to ramp up preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit. PSNC is supporting the Government’s Brexit planning and we are working closely with the other pharmacy organisations to consider what this guidance means in practice for community pharmacies. We will issue further advice in due course, but contractors are advised to familiarise themselves with DHSC’s messages.
PSNC has since identified the key actions from this DHSC guidance for contractors in PSNC Briefing 005/19: Key actions for pharmacy contractors to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU.
7th December 2018: Health Secretary letter to healthcare professionals
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has written to frontline healthcare professionals, stressing the need to avoid local stockpiling of medicines, saying: “UK health and social care providers – including hospitals, care homes, GPs and community pharmacies – should not stockpile additional medicines beyond their business as usual stock levels. There is also no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions”. He also said that, if asked, they should advise their patients against stockpiling medicines. In summary, the guidance states that:
- Community pharmacies (along with other healthcare providers) should not stockpile additional medicines beyond their business as usual stock levels;
- There is no need for clinicians to write longer NHS prescriptions;
- Local stockpiling is unnecessary and could cause shortages in other areas, which would put patient care at risk;
- Any incidences involving the over-ordering of medicines would be investigated and followed up with the relevant Chief or Responsible Pharmacist directly; and
- If asked, patients should be advised not to store additional medicines at home because the Government is working with industry to ensure a continued supply of medicines.
23rd August 2018: Letter sent by DHSC to frontline healthcare professionals
DHSC has written a letter advising community pharmacies that they “do not need to take any steps to stockpile additional medicines, beyond their business as usual stock levels.” Instead, pharmaceutical companies are being asked to hold an additional six weeks supply. PSNC’s Brexit Forum will be monitoring the impact of DHSC’s stockpiling contingency plans on medicine prices.